So the 9th Legal IT Show at the Islington Business Design Centre in London is now over. Here are some initial reactions…

Leaving aside the worrying fact one vendor had employed sales-staff who looked like Jedward, my immediate impression (CC writes) was that it was a much, much smaller than in some previous years (see figures below) with areas that used to be occupied by stands now occupied by conference areas, the VIP area – or just plain nothing. Here's the entrance/downstairs area which in 2008 held 11 stands and in 2002 held its greatest number ever: 14. This year: zero. However another factor here is that the stand-space many vendors were taking, was smaller than in previous years, so although there were actually the same number of stands as in 2004, this year's crop occupied far less space.



Of course less stands meant there were more visitors to go around the exhibitors who were there (although as Mark Garnish comments below, this could prove long term to be a zero-sum game) with, for example, Winscribe reporting they had more visitors to their stand in the first 2 hours of day one than they had in the preceding 2 years of attending the show. There again, another digital dictation vendor – nFlow – said they saw nothing at the show to make them regret their decision not to take a stand this year.



Exact numbers of attendees are always hard to guestimate – perhaps marginally down on last year but – as already mentioned – now spread between fewer vendors competing for their attention. It was also noticeable the Day 2 numbers did not die off as dramatically as in previous years AND that visitor numbers remained pretty constant throughout the entire day, rather than falling off in the post-lunch period, which is what has often happened in the past.

I quite liked the way the seminar and round-table areas were within the main exhibition area rather than hidden away in the conference rooms upstairs – leading in previous years to a complaint from exhibitors that some visitors just hovered between the conference rooms and the main refreshment area and never ventured down onto the exhibition floor. However there were also complaints that the sound was not as good as it should have been and that some of the round-table sessions were poorly attended.



Looking at the vendors who were present, along with the usual suspects, there were also a number of vendors who only had what can best be described as a marginal connection with the legal sector. I asked one about their decision to attend and they said it was company policy to tackle a different vertical market every year. Last year it was local government, this year it is legal, next year it will be something else.

As to the usual suspects, one issue all vendors now seem to be struggling with is finding the next big thing that will pull in the punters. Many of the new product launches on show were only point-upgrades or effectively fleshing out existing products with additional functionality. In other words, nothing has a 'wow factor'. And even hot topics such as Sharepoint, cloud computing, SaaS and delivering services via Blackberrys and iPhones are essentially just different ways of delivering existing products. There was some interest in speech recognition (as distinct from conventional digital dictation) and I heard a number of law firm delegates say that videoconferencing was now high on their shopping lists – although I didn't spot any exhibitors offering this. And that was it.

So why did visitors attend the event? The two main reasons seem to have been:
• that firms are coming out of recession and need to catch-up with technology/see what new things have emerged over the past couple of years, and
• that firms are profoundly unhappy with their current suppliers and are looking to swap to new vendors – case and practice management systems being the two big areas of dissatisfaction.

Here is the stand data I promised. According to the official show guides these are the total number of stands at Islington…
2010 – 55
2008 – 68
2004 – 55
2002 – 71

For the record, the SOLEX event at the Barbican in 1999, at the heart of Y2K boom, had 100 exhibitor stands and in 1989 had 89 stands.

Gossip? For the first time in many years, the main topic of conversation was not the IRIS Group – although there was some admiration for the group's new Software Solutions Guide – which almost (but not enough to cause any complaints) looks like the old Law Society guide. Full marks to IRIS on this marketing initiative. The only other topics of gossip was why had two vendors (Workshare and Bighand) recently seen their CEOs depart – and when would LexisNexis get around to finalising its latest restructuring/senior management changes.

What else? There was a distinct lack of the old style marketing stunts that used to liven up this exhibition and its predecessor SOLEX at the Barbican. In fact the only one that caught our eye was Saturn 27's fast cars and fast women Formula 1 racing simulator



It was also noticeable that stands are getting smaller, with far fewer of the big self-standing/custom built units that used to predominate at legal IT shows and far more of the American-style booths. And, frankly, some of these looked like Blue Peter D-I-Y projects using sticky-back plastic, toilet roll tubes and old yoghurt cartons. Must be a sign of the times – and the economy.

And, talking of the economy – fashion. All the women staffing the stands were dressed either in black frocks or black trouser-suits with bum-freezer jackets. And all the men were back in dark grey suits, white shirts and ties. Not a pair of chinos and polo-shirt combos in sight. There is a theory that fashion reflects the economy: that when times are good, vendors wear light colours but when times are hard, it's back to sombre colours and serious, sensible outfits to show that you are a serious, sensible company, with serious, sensible solutions for serious times.

Here are some vendor comments…

“Eclipse's thoughts?  Fantastic – best one ever by a long way, and no vendor BS (honestly)!  Ridiculously busy, to the point where we had people queuing up to have a Proclaim demo. A real range of motivators were on display but yes indeed users unhappy with their existing suppliers were plentiful! My initial fag-packet sums suggest that we had well over 100 practices approach us for demonstrations over the 2-day period.” …Darren Gower, Eclipse Legal Systems.








“It is always difficult to predict visitor numbers accurately as
every year the show organisers tell us how many hundreds of people walk through
the building, but ultimately, for those of us who are actually working on any
of the stands, we largely just measure success on the number of people we see
but more importantly on the quality of the leads that we get as a result.  In that respect Legal IT 2010 has been
one of the best shows for some years. 
The number of exhibitors was clearly down on previous years, as can be
seen from the fact that the ground floor was completely empty and it was pretty
sparse at the back of the main hall as well.  Notwithstanding, this did not stop a large number of firms
looking to replace their practice and case management systems coming to Islington,
either just to meet some prospective partners with whom they had already
started discussions or to start the process of looking for a new supplier.  In that respect we, and I think most of
the other suppliers, found ourselves being incredibly busy with significant numbers
of mid size firms having serious discussions about their plans.

 

“Some of the initiatives that the organisers put on were a little
disappointing.  Whilst some of the
speakers were very interesting the actual location of the auditorium being in
the middle of the main exhibition area was curious and as a result the sound
system had to be so directional that it wasn’t possible always to hear what was
being said.  The round table
discussion groups were poorly attended and in particular, the one closest to us
was almost unused with people just using this as an additional seating area to
conduct business.  I am not sure
whether this particular initiative is worth repeating.

 

“Will we rebook for next year? I know that we want to be there in
2011 however, there is one concern. 
The number of exhibitors being down is in some respects a good thing for
suppliers such as us as it means there are lots of visitors to see fewer people
and gives us greater opportunity.  There
is a limit to how far one would want to go with this as if too few people
exhibit then there will no longer be much call for prospective clients to turn
up to the show; there won’t be anyone for them to see.  We have already seen a number of suppliers
who would typically exhibit at this kind of show who did not turn up in 2010
that were there in 2009. In addition some of the stands that were perhaps not
directly related to PMS and CMS were not that busy during this show and may or
may not decide whether to re-book for next year.  I suspect that if there are too many more drop outs then the
organisers may well either find this show is not worth putting on or lawyers
may decide not to turn up and this would be a shame.

 



“Finally I have to make a comment on our new logo. Despite the
comments on the blog the new logo and the name was very helpful to us. The
association with Tikit is very positive for TikitTFB as we get increasing
numbers of leads from firms who may, in the past, not have considered TFB. I
can think of at least 5 IT Directors from top 50 firms that stopped by for a
chat over the two days – that wouldn’t have happened before. From our point of view we intend to be at the show next year and
if it is anything like as good as this years we will be extremely busy, 2010
looks like it will turn out to be an interesting year.” …Mark Garnish, Tikit TFB